South Africa picks Morkel for ICC Champions Trophy 2017

Paceman returns to ODI side for first time since June 2016; Tahir, Maharaj to lead spin attack
Morne Morkel

Morne Morkel, who returned to top-flight action in the Test series in New Zealand last month, was on Wednesday (April 19 named in South Africa’s 15-man squad for the three-match One-Day International tour of England and the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.

A back injury had kept Morkel out of action since November 2016, but he was picked for the three Tests in New Zealand and returned 11 wickets as South Africa won 1-0. That gave the selectors enough reason to pick him alongside Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell and Dwaine Pretorius, as well as Chris Morris, the allrounder, in a strong pace attack. The last of Morkel’s 108 ODIs was in June 2016, against West Indies in Bridgetown.

Dale Steyn, the frontman of the South African pace attack for the past many years, wasn’t considered as he continued his recovery from a shoulder injury. He was, instead, named in a 16-man South Africa A squad that will tour England in June. Interestingly, that squad also includes Pretorius.

Keshav Maharaj, the left-arm spinner who also had a very good Test series in New Zealand with two five-wicket hauls, was drafted in to the ODI squad, while Dane Paterson, the right-arm pacer, and Tabraiz Shamsi, the left-arm wrist-spinner, were left out of the party that did duty in the five-match ODI series in New Zealand prior to the Tests, which also South Africa won 3-2. Imran Tahir, the No. 1 bowler in the International Cricket Council rankings for ODIs – as well as Twenty20 Internationals – is the main spinner in the mix.

The rest of the squad, especially the batting department, looked in the familar and dependable hands of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien.

“We have been working with this group of players for the last two seasons where our key emphasis has been consistency in selection,” said Linda Zondi, the Cricket South Africa convener of selectors, while announcing the squad. “That has shown in how this group has performed over the last while, which has resulted in winning three consecutive ODI series.

Dale Steyn wasn’t considered for the Champions Trophy squad as he continued his recovery from a shoulder injury, instead has been named in the a 16-man South Africa A squad that will tour England in June
Dale Steyn wasn’t considered for the Champions Trophy squad as he continued his recovery from a shoulder injury, instead has been named in the a 16-man South Africa A squad that will tour England in June

“We feel we have a squad that covers every scenario that we could possibly be faced with on the tour. Most importantly, every player knows and understands their role and value within the squad. Keshav has had an exceptional debut season for the Test side and his inclusion in the squad gives us a spinner with a different skills and extra batting depth. We have seen how important it is to bat deep in ODI cricket, this option will give us that cover if needed.”

Many of the players in the squad are currently playing in the Indian Premier League, with the notable exceptions of de Kock and Duminy, both Delhi Daredevils players who opted out of the tournament at a late stage. While de Kock was ruled out because of a finger injury sustained during the New Zealand Test series, Duminy cited personal reasons for opting out. Both are expected to be ready for action come June 1, when the ICC Champions Trophy kicks off with the England v Bangladesh game at The Oval. South Africa’s first game, in Group B, is against Sri Lanka at The Oval on June 3. Also in their group are India and Pakistan.

South Africa has had a mixed time at the ICC Champions Trophy over the years. While it won the inaugural edition of the tournament, then called the ICC KnockOut Trophy, in Bangladesh in 1998, it has only managed to get as far as the semi-finals since, in 2002, 2006 and 2013.

The squad will leave for England on May 16 and begin preprations with two 50-over tour matches against Sussex and Northamptonshire.

Squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Keshav Maharaj, Dwaine Pretorius, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.

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